Who will build the roads?

Errico Malatesta was something of an anarchist super star, if such a thing is not self contradictory.  Toward the end of his life, he was so popular he could draw crowds in the tens of thousands to hear him speak.

His political career started early, as a boy he was arrested for writing an “insolent and threatening” letter to Italian King Victor Emmanuel II.  Many nations would look unfavorably at Malatesta, he was forced to leave Italy, he was blocked from entering Syria and Turkey, he was expelled from Switzerland.  He also opposed syndicalism because he believed it created an elite class of trades people.  He would spend ten years of his life in prison.

Malatesta was first arrested at 14

Malatesta was first arrested at 14

But it is his ideas and not his personal history which i find especially compelling.  One of the many compelling points in his short book “Anarchy” was:

Anarchy literally means “without government”. It has taken on the common secondary meaning of “disorder and confusion” only because people have been conditioned to believe that the abolition of government is impossible. In the days when people believed that the abolition of monarchy was impossible, the word “republic” carried a similar meaning to “anarchy” today.

I find it fascinating  that the people who control language choose a second meaning for the name of the style of government/self rule that they were afraid of with chaos and disorder, both for Republic a hundred years ago and for Anarchy today.

anarchy is not chaos

 

30 years ago i went to the Arcosanti community in the dessert of Arizona.  When i was younger i was fascinated by the dense building ideas of Paolo Solari who was the original designer of this extraordinary community.  When i was on the tour, someone kept explaining to our guide how this type of venture was impossible and would not work, they described all the businesses that they personally needed and how they could not see them there.  A blindness i would consider a failure of imagination.  

 

where we are going we dont need roads

 

 

Most people can not imagine work environments without bosses and hierarchy.  This failure of imagination leads them to think that these things are not possible.  And everyday i am at Acorn i am amazed, pleased and impressed by the business which we run that has no managers or bosses, dynamically determines much of the work which needs to be done and still comfortably succeeds in supporting the community.

There are dozens of answers to the question “Who will build the roads?” The fact that some people can’t visualize how this would be done, does not mean it can not be done, it often just means that people have poor imaginations or are wedded to the status quo.

 

Step outside the box

Step outside the box

 

 

Would you wear it?

i breezed into commie clothes and got a funny t-shirt which i barely read.  After walking around in it for half an hour and a couple of people saying, “are you wearing that to the wedding?” i decided i should go back to commie and upgrade my attire.  On my return trip i found a nice embroidered light weight shirt, which was praised by several people after i emerged with it on.

The next day i walked into the Acorn smoke shack and guest Johnny said, “Oh i like that shirt,” to which i replied, “Would you wear it?” to which he unhesitatingly shot back, “yes!”.  I immediately pulled the shirt over my head and handed it to him.  He stripped his shirt off before a slightly shocked new visitor and put the embroidered one right on. The total length of our exchange was less than 2 minutes.  i walked off wearing his simple green t-shirt.

Johnny and his new shirt

Johnny and his new shirt

The pitch i made to the PBS reporter who was just here is we basically have two choices: we can learn to share things, be generous and cooperate, OR we can continue to be selfish, possessive, and untrusting.  In the latter case, the world dies.  Let’s practice giving stuff away in a big way.

 

The easiest virtue

When i was in my early teens i thought (for some reason which escapes me now) that i should be more virtuous.   i did a bit of research and found a long list of virtues in some book (this is before Wikipedia would direct me here).  Having studied the list and being an efficient sort of teen (not wanting to have to work the new virtue problem too hard), i settled on patience.  My thinking was this, all you have to do is wait.

Turns out in my particular style of parenting, patience is the key to success.  Twin Oaks requires an increasing amount of work from it’s kids as they get older.  Willow needs to work a handful of hours now and it will bump up to 8 hours a week when he turns 13.  Mostly he is responsible for his homework and education.

My Tupelo Surf Helper and Mop

My Tupelo Serf Helper and Mop

For a while time i was worried that Willow would play video games and watch Star Trek and resist both school work and work around the community.  Over the last few months he has been doing more of both.  Hawina has been instrumental in helping him find work that he actually wants to do.  Like helping Sky with preparing lunch or doing a Tupelo Serf (cleaning shift) or boxing tofu or stocking his residence’s kitchen.

And good things come to those who wait.  And the big benefit to the more patient approach is that he feels he is making the choices (which he is), rather than being commanded by his parents to do something.  And some times the easiest thing to do is the right thing to do.

My favorite moment from this Tupelo Serf shift with Willow was after i asked him to help me spell something he said “i love it when adults ask me how to spell things.”

[Willow has Read and Approved the Post]

 

 

Two Speaking gigs – University of Baltimore and MIT

i quite like public speaking, especially when it is on topics i am passionate about.  I have two gigs coming up and i wanted to brag about them here.

Cuddle2-page-001

My charming and talented lover Bryonna at UB is organizing this first event.  My part of the presentation is just before the “cuddle in” part and while i will certainly talk about the basics of consent and why it is important, my real agenda is to use transparency tools and milling activities to build trust among these somewhat daring participants.

An earlier event is the workshop GPaul and i are doing at MIT on how intentional community and sharing technologies are the solution to Climate Disruption.

Workshop Poster-page-001

 

OK Cupid Blues and Greens

[It turn out, as a novice user, i significantly over-simplified both the status and the politics of the polyamory identity/recognition struggle within OK Cupid in this post.  Fortunately, my new friend Tara has added a long comment to this this post which gives the background and history.  In this case you might want to read the comments to this post before the post itself.]

Some months back i joined a secret polyamory group on Facebook (which means it can only be seen by its members).  One of the interesting aspects of this group was that there was an internal list of links to people’s OK Cupid (OCK) profiles and a few other links.  Many dating sites and sex positive social network sites use pseudonyms to hide people’s identity, so this key inside the secret poly group was quite valuable in seeing who was in the group and how they present themselves.   Almost everyone had an OKC profile, so i thought i should get one as well. Once i put it up, Cassandra heavily edited it for me.

What should your partner be doing of a Friday Night?

What should your partner be doing of a Friday Night?

One of the problems with OKC is that it was not designed to match poly people very well.  Under relationship status you could be single or married or dating, but there was no “Open Relationship” option, which is quite important to dating sites.  OKC fixed that this week.  We will see if this leads to a different experience for me with the system.

okcupid triad

i must confess an odd relationship with the OKC system.  i want to be validated by having people who it seems i am good matches with, but i am not super interested in finding romantic partners this way, at least i don’t think i am.  It has been slightly frustrating to find people who are 95% matches who have no interest in polyamory, since i have answered a number of questions about this, it seems like there is something wrong with the OKC weighting algorithm (or perhaps everyone else is just dodging all the questions on poly).

OKCupid key words

OK Cupid does have a number of revealing and curious statistics about it’s own users.  For example if your desire is to get a lot of messages from OKC as a straight female user, then you are much better off with some people thinking you attractive and others thinking you are ugly, then you are with the same number of people finding you beautiful but many men finding you cute.

OKC paradox questions

OKC paradoxical answers

The service is free.  You can add your own questions and answer the ones you like.  It is in pretty wide use (which is important for network effects).  It does not discriminate against non-heterosexual users (as a surprising number of dating sites do).  And while it is not the only game in town, it is a good game.  If you want to be in this world at all.

Other Polyamory Blog Posts:

And the latest news from Scientific American:  Polyamory may be Good for You

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temelin 3 and 4 are Dead

It’s late, i should be in bed, but i just read some very good news and there are some people i need to thank.

In 1991, i moved to Brno in what was then Czechoslovakia.  I started working with an amazing group of young Czech radicals who worked for a “dark green” group called Hnuti Duha (the Rainbow Movement).  “How green were there?” you might be asking.  I walked up the 4 floors worth of stairs for 5 years with my Czech comrades before i even knew the building had an elevator.  American friends came to visit at once and tried to give out oranges they had bought.  Thirty people in this office, and they could not give away one orange.  Why?  Because oranges don’t grow in Czechoslovakia, which means they are not bioregional, so they were not part of our diet.  When we started working on the nuclear power plants Temelin 1 & 2, which had been started by the Soviets and were being taken over by the Westinghouse and the US Export Import Bank, public opinion was 80% in favor of building reactors in that country.

Honza and Jakub

Honza and Jakub

Honza Beranek was my boss.  He was 21, i was 34.  He was the best boss i ever had.  Soft spoken, hard thinking, deeply dedicated.  One of the people who could have made a fortune in the private sector, but it was never really an option.  After a stint as president of the Czech Green Party, he would move to Amsterdam with his family and work for Greenpeace, ultimately taking the job i always wanted, the head of the international anti-nuclear campaign.  He would be promoted again to running the entire Greenpeace Energy Campaign.

Jakub Patocka was only 19 when i came to work for Duha.  Charismatic, deeply political, sharply literary and also hella bright he was the hand on the rudder of this exotic environmental campaigning organization, which would ultimately become the Czech chapter of Friend of the Earth.  While Honza went off to do international work, Jakub stayed in the Czech Republic and was the editor for a couple of political magazines and ran political campaigns. There were dozens of environmental campaigns in the Czech Republic that these two extraordinary young activists could have chosen.  They selected one that they were almost certain to lose, because it was the right fight to be in.

JanH and Adela

JanH and Adela

Jan Haverkamp and i started working together in 1990 at Ecotopia in Hungary.  He pretended to be a Westinghouse representative presenting the benefits of nuclear power to the environmental activists at the camp.  He was fantastically compelling and crazy frustrating to the young activists who knew he was manipulating them, but did not know their material well enough to counter his arguments.  Jan had the other job i coveted, he traveled across Europe helping small local groups defeat reactors.  He was at every Temelin action i was at for years.  He was instrumental in stopping the Belene Reactor complex in Bulgaria.  The last time i was in Prague, i expressed concern to my Czech wife Adela about the proposed new Temelin reactor blocks 3 & 4.  Adela, who is the mother of Jan’s daughter Bara, said “Jan will stop them.”

Crashing the gates at Temelin in 1996

Crashing the gates at Temelin in 1996

And indeed he has (with the help of many others).  News just arrived today that construction of Temelin 3 & 4 will not be started.  Unable to get the huge government subsidies and guarantees that the UK recently agreed to at Hinckley C, the Czech electric utility had to fold this completely uneconomical proposal.  In late 2013, Jakub joined the Czech Social Democratic Party, in early 2014 this party would cancel the government subsidies for Temelin 3 & 4, and the project would die.  I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Europe rests easier tonight knowing this ill-conceived reactor project will never be completed (and CEZ’s stock went up 3.1% on the announcement).  And to these heroes and teachers of mine, thank you for your tireless work and this tremendous success.

PS: Jakub tells me that the new minister of Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mladek refused to provide state subsidies for the reactor, which was central to the deal collapsing.  And while there is talk of a new tender, perhaps using the new wholly government controlled energy entity (unlike the utility CEZ which is 30% traded on the open market and the rest government owned), without state funding there is no future for new nuclear construction in the Czech Republic.  

 

 

Cultural Third Rails

Éric is from Québec.  He was very excited about income sharing community as an alternative to the previous IT jobs he had had in the main stream.  Hard working, handy and politically progressive the early money was on Acorn enthusiastically accepting him as a member.  Turns out that would have been a losing bet.

Some signals don't translate well.

Some signals don’t translate well.

It started with touching.  In Montréal and other parts of Québec people put their hands lightly on other peoples shoulders when they talk to them.  Acorn is clear in our information to visitors that there is a very strong consent culture here and you can’t just touch people without asking them first, even in this seemingly simple and harmless way.  We are supposed to stress this in our introductory tour of the community as well, but it appears Éric never got this tour.

So as he did in his country, Éric held peoples shoulders when he was talking to them, until someone told him that he needed to stop this.  At first he did not understand why, this is quite different from where he comes from, and he even made a couple of mistakes after being told.  But when one member got really upset with him for this, he realized that he needed to change his behavior to match our cultural agreements.

Room privacy is sacred

Room privacy is paramount

Then there was the issue of rooms.  Éric was helping with the electrical repairs connected to the arson recovery.  We were just about to buy the final supplies to complete the electrical in Heartwood.  Éric asked if he could go into one members room and they replied “Fuliano is sleeping in there, don’t waked them up.”  He thought this meant he should avoid waking the person in the room and gather the timely information in a very quiet way.  Only to walk in on someone very surprised about his presence there.

Éric appreciates the strong culture of trust.  What he missed is that part of creating this culture here is that there is rigid cultural zoning.  You can’t go into someone’s room unless they give permission explicitly.  He thought he was being helpful.  Here again it took a couple of mistakes before he realized that this was actually quite a big deal to people here.

It is not as dense as Hong Kong, but there are similarities

It is not as dense as Hong Kong, but there are similarities

Commune life is dense.  Even in a relatively small place like Acorn (with 30 members and a dozen guests and interns) there are people in public space almost all the time.   I am oft surprised at the 5 AM rush hour which takes place in Heartwood, with some folks getting up for morning chores, others going to bed after a long night of partying and still other sleep anarchists who might be in the middle of their temporally shifted day.

One of the most frequently cited reasons for leaving community is wanting to have more privacy and more independent control of your things.  We try to accommodate these needs by having exclusive norms around people’s rooms.  Mala tells a story of playing tag with a bunch of small Twin Oaks kids.  It was quite a lively game with running around everywhere and yelling.  Mala ran into her room to escape being tagged and every kid ran and then stopped abruptly at the threshold to her room.  They each asks “Can i come in?”

Navigating the commune culture can be tricky

Navigating the commune culture can be tricky

There were other small problems with Éric which ultimately derailed his application.  Acorn uses the selection algorithm “If it is not a clear ‘yes’, then it is not a ‘yes’”.  Most people were confident that Eric would learn from these mistakes and not repeat them.  But the collection of them combined with other discomforts made him joining not a clear yes.  Some members were frustrated, because they felt like we were not clear enough.  But in the end it was Éric‘s choice to leave, he did not want anyone to feel uncomfortable about him being there.  Most people would not have seen this and pushed for what they wanted.  It is another thing i appreciate about Eric.

Acorn for it’s part is putting together a list of these cultural third rails (as in “you touch, you die’), so that others can learn from both ours and Éric‘s mistakes.

Building trust is very tricky work.  Strong agreements around receiving consent for any type of touching and clearly defined personal space are part of feeling safe in a dense place without locks.  Adding to this confusion is that we are a very physical group with people touching each other all the time and breezing into each others rooms.  What Éric (and others before him) could not see is that these behaviors had been negotiated before he arrived, they can’t be presumed.

Eric and Audrey painting Heartwood at Acorn after the fire - Circa 2013

Eric and Audrey painting Heartwood at Acorn after the fire – Circa 2013

Originally, i changed the name and country of origin in this story, but when i sent it to Éric, he said he would prefer the story be told with his name and his land (not Poland which i had selected since it has similar casual touching as a cultural norm).

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